Like most people, when Watch Dogs was announced to be a launch title with the Xbox One and PS4, I was really excited. As the day got closer, Ubisoft announced that they needed to delay the game until May in order to add some much needed polish. While I would have liked to have had it as a launch title, I appreciated their decision not to release a buggy game just so it could be a day one game. This also meant 6 additional months of hype, leading me to feel like it didn’t live up to it’s own lofty ambitions. I’m not only going to review the story, but the mechanics of the game as well. I would like to review the app as well, but since I was unable to connect my Uplay account with my PS4 I was unable to make use of the companion app. Since there will be some spoilers in the story review, I’ll start with the mechanics.
Since Assassin’s Creed has become the epitome of what Ubisoft is all about, the controls in the game feel very familiar. The biggest difference in Watch Dogs is the ability to hack different parts of the city since everything is connected to the ctOS. You can hack anything from a traffic light to a person’s cell phone, which is how you make money in the game. Honestly, I got so much money hacking peoples cell phones in the first act that I was able to buy all the weapons and pretty much ignore the need to hack for more money for the remainder of the game.
One of the biggest focuses in the game is driving. That being said, the driving mechanics in the game are just awful. Most of the time when you’re driving, you feel like you have little to no control of the car at all. This makes escape and chase missions a nightmare.
During combat, you can stealth kill using a takedown move at close range or you can go the run and gun route. You can get a wide array of guns including pistols, machine guns, shotguns, and sniper rifles. Even with assisted aim, I found myself missing quite a few shot that according to the crosshairs should have hit the intended target. Additionally, there are plenty of single use items, such as grenades and com jammers. Then there’s Focus, your standard “bullet time” effect. For me, this was the best way to ensure that my shots actually killed my enemies.
Side Missions / Collectables
Much like Assassin’s Creed, there is a ton of extra stuff you can do besides the main story. There are a handful of side quests that are all pretty much more of the same. It’s fun to do each one once, but after that it feels like it’s just there to make the game feel longer. As for the collectables, there’s a lot you can run around and get. Personally, I don’t have the patience to run around collecting things that don’t benefit me in the main game.
The Story [Spoilers]
As with most Ubisoft games, our protagonist, Aiden Pearce, is on a mission for revenge. As he gets closer to finding out who called the hit that led to the death of his niece, his sister is abducted by his former partner on the job that led to this said hit. Aiden is forced to help him while also trying to betray him and save his sister. That’s pretty much the meat of the story right there. Of course, since we’re in Chicago, there is a mob boss running the entire city including gangster and government officials.
Sadly, that’s pretty much all you need to know about the story. It wasn’t really compelling or exciting, there was never a point where I couldn’t put down the controller because I wanted to know what was going to happen next. The story is comprised of five poorly split up Acts. I say poorly split up because Act 2 is about 50% of the story.
During Act 1, we learned about who Aiden Pearce is, the vigilante. You learn that he goes around the city trying to take out the scum and clean up the streets. Act 2 is where the real story begins. This is when his sister is taken and he has to run missions for both himself and the kidnapper. In Act 3, we run around trying to get the help of the only man that can hack the data need to save his sister, the man that wrote the ctOS. We move on to Act 4, where he saves his sister and goes from being careful, to staying off the radar, to guns blazing. Trying to save his sister was probably one of the worst experiences in the game, it took me over 30 minutes to get away from the police because there was only one right route but you could only find it through trial and error.
On to Act 5, the one mission wonder. Most missions were close in length, but not this one. This mission was about four missions in one. This mission was just ridiculous, including the fact that your former partner that you’re trying to kill now has full control of the ctOS. Apparently this also affects how you see, because the screen keeps flickering. I get that he had control of the lights and bridges and all that, but messing with the screen just felt unnecessary.
After all of the hype, to me, it felt like a let down. They made it very clear they want this to be the next Assassin’s Creed. The story follows the standard Ubisoft plot, which while it isn’t necessarily bad, it’s not good either. This game had the potential to be so much more, but instead played it safe. Watch Dogs is worth trying, but I would wait until the price came down at this point.
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